Debates Debatable, Judge Declares


A Libertarian Party legal challenge to the propriety of the planned third debate between Kerry and Bush gains some traction, as Judge F. Pendleton Gaines III has demanded that Arizona State University and the Commission on Presidential Debates, the debate's hosts, appear in court tomorrow to respond to that suit.

The LP is claiming that Arizona State University is, as the New York Sun reports

illegally donating state resources to the Republican and Democratic Parties by serving as host for a debate that showcases Messrs. Bush and Kerry but excludes their Libertarian counterpart, Michael Badnarik, who is on the ballot in Arizona and 47 other states.

"They can't have debates that make public expenditures for private benefit," Mr. [David] Euchner [the LP's lawyer] said. "A.S.U. is spending its money in violation of the state constitution."

The long story goes on to detail that the university claims that since it is trying to gather private funds to pay the expenses–though it has not yet succeeded in competely doing so–then there is no public support involved in the debates. It also quotes a couple of legal experts saying the LP is sure to lose, since the University could easily claim it is getting benefits–like publicity–in return for its "gift" to the parties.

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  1. great idea, but I give 1% odds that anyone from ASU or CPD will even shows up in court. This case will be shutdown with backroom deals. This case looms over the debates, but this story is not even covered by CNN or Fox. Surprise, surprise..

  2. I hope the LP wins. If they get third parties into the debates, we get better debates with a broader range of issues discussed. Or, the Republicans and Dems lose control of the debate process, and a neutral group like the DAR takes over, and we get better two-party debates.

    Best of luck.

  3. “I hope the LP wins.”

    And I wanna win the lottery, but I’m not holding my breath…

  4. DAR = Daughters of the American Revolution? Or did you mean League of Women Voters? The DAR is a bunch of Boston Puritans, aren’t they?

    Well, I’m probably wrong on all counts. DAR = Dumb-ass Republicans? There’s just no knowing with you sometimes.

  5. This won’t amount to anything. The amount of “resources” the state supplies are miniscule compared to the budgets of the two big parties. They may at least have to pay for it though…

  6. In the unlikely event that the LP wins, future debates will simply be held in a forum paid for with private money, and the minor parties will be excluded again.

  7. I’d surely like to see the debates open to other candidates. This current stranglehold on the system by the two major parties is corrupt.

  8. The democrats want the FCC to stop Sinclair from airing “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal” on SBG stations because to do so would be an “illegal in-kind contribution to the Bush-Cheney campaign.” If Vote for Change isn’t an “illegal in-kind contribution” to the Kerry campaign, then neither is this.

    To the democrats and republicans, there are only two candidates. All that “Rock The Vote” bullshit is designed to reinforce that notion. The whole subtext of the CFR flap over 527s and whatnot has been from the get-go: if it’s anti-Kerry/Bush, it’s pro-Bush/Kerry, because There Can Be Only Two.

    These two machines won’t even let other parties get a shout out in the rhetoric. So I don’t think there is any mechanism available that would allow other parties into the debates; they would scuttle it completely before allowing any voice other than the Republicans and the Democrats to be heard. We are, after all, only a democracy in theory.

  9. D’oh! League of Women Voters. Duh.

  10. So what’ll happen here even if the judge rules in favor of the LP? Is Sherrif Joe Arpaio gonna ride out there with his posse and shut down the debate?

    Also, since this case is a state constitutional question, isn’t it unlikely that the ruling would have a legal effect on the law in other states?

  11. The judge declined to issue the injunction, although the case can still proceed:

  12. “This case looms over the debates, but this story is not even covered by CNN or Fox”

    Looms like an ant’s shadow looms over an NBA player. Face it, this is another quixotic stunt by a party of loons.

  13. This CNN article, extolling the virtues of a two-way race, is as good an explanation as any why the press doesn’t cover third parties: They just make the whole process too darn complicated.

    P.S. – Those who support third parties should be very glad the press doesn’t cover third party antics. I agree with the guy’s complaints and support his effort for change, but getting arrested has never struck me as a very effective (nor highly regarded) way of accomplishing a goal.

  14. I am of two minds on this issue. I am against overly heavy handed restrictions to electoral access for third parties. I also think that a two party system is the natural “default” setting of our form of government and in general it has been a good system, that has promoted political stability in our country. As was seen in the Democrat primary debates, too many candidates can spoil the debate, as the also-ran candidates can take too much time away from the ones who have legitimate shot at winning, therefore depriving the voters of a good evaluation of the frontrunners positions. On the other hand excluding the also-rans condemns them to political oblivion for a certainty as they will not be considered serious candidates.

    There must be some rules for gaining entrance to a general election debate. Perhaps polling at 15% is an unreasonably high hurdle to overcome, but I do not think a free-for-all is desirable either.

  15. MT: “There must be some rules for gaining entrance to a general election debate.” I agree. And am not looking forward to a free-for-all. But that seems unlikely, doesn’t it?

    It seems that one objective qualification for participation in national debates could be national ballot status. If your candidate is on the ballot in all states (but what about DC? the territories?), then your candidate should be on the ballot.

    I note that the Libertarians are not on the ballot in all states this time, though they did a much better job than the Greens or Nader. Badnarik is on, what, 49 states? Impressive. The “two-party system” works hard, in most states, to keep competition down. The organizational skills (or sheer obstinate pluck) of the LP impresses me more than any of its candidates do.

    If a group can that effectively organize against overwhelming odds, then maybe they deserve to be heard.

  16. Mark, Mark, Mark,

    Haven’t you hung out here long enough to know that if you point one finger at another, you point three fingers at yourself? Democrat and Republican zealots are no less looney — and that is verifiable — than supporters of the LP. Really, get a viewpoint.

  17. MJ, your disingenuous observations are bullshit. Fence-sitting in the face of the broadest variety of voices contributing to the candidacy for highest office simply reveal your preference for convenience, not for tough slugfests that force contenders out by means of unpleasant elimination.

    You — without explicitly condemning participants — clearly have a problem with candidates who participated in the Democratic primary debates. Tough. Nobody asked you if you care to hear unpleasant, inelegant, awkward, and unpolished messages. Perhaps, if you think about it, that’s what makes viable candidates shine…comparing them to individuals with whom they violently disagree.

    You also assert that the “two party system is the natural “default” setting of our form of government and in general it has been a good system, that has promoted political stability in our country.” First of all, you’re wrong. There is no default setting, no natural form of government. Government is what we want it to be. Maybe you just want everybody to stop bickering and obey. Fine, you have a home in the past, say, 30 years ago, under Soviet rule.

    Stop pussyfooting and say what you mean, k?

  18. “getting arrested has never struck me as a very effective (nor highly regarded) way of accomplishing a goal.”

    Unless you count minor incidents like the Civil Rights Movement, where activists would sometimes court arrest in order to garner publicity and expose the Jim Crow system. Although that precedent is irrelevant, because that was a situation in which people were being denied their political rights. No connection with the present situation.

  19. I find the judge’s ruling to be very interesting, indeed. On the one hand, the case may proceed, meaning that the judge agrees that the exclusion of Badnarik by an organization that benefits from public resources could very well have injured the LP, and that some remedy may be warranted. On the other hand, the specific remedy requested — an injunction to put the debate on hold — was deemed inappropriate under the circumstances.

    At this point, CPD and ASU COULD offer Badnarik a place in the debate, and save themselves some pain later. Or, they can do what they seem most likely to do — move ahead with existing bipartisan plans — which would definitely establish and perhaps exacerbate the damage to the LP. From here, it looks like a case of “pay me now or pay me later.” Clearly, the powers that be think they can get out of paying later, so they’re happy with the ruling for now. But will they REALLY escape, or will continuing to exclude Badnarik just get them into bigger trouble?

    It’ll be worth watching this one, just to see how it all turns out…

  20. I can’t understand how an alleged educational institution can, in good conscience, bar the public from alternative political views, even ones that “have no chance of winning”. The hypocrisy here is unbelievable.

  21. Andy-Got one, thanks. I am a libertarian, but find the party nauseating. I worked with them on and off for years(I spent election night ’92 with Marrou), and was active for years after that. I got sick of the LP about the time they nominated Browne for a second time. There are few left in the party who aren’t silly in the “It usually starts with Ayn Rand” mode, or in it to sell books.

    As for the other parties-of course. And their ideas are alternately stupid or evil. That doesn’t change my view of the LP.

  22. “. . . Face it, this is another quixotic stunt by a party of loons. . .”

    We’re not loons, we’re ducks.

    Moo, Moo, MOOOOOO!!!!!

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